1892, Baron Pierre de Coubertin made his first speech at the Sorbonne
University of Paris, calling for the revival of the International Olympic
Games. Such sports exchanges, he said, would be the “new free trade” of
Coubertin's original sporting love was rugby. Intrigued by what he had read
about English public schools, in 1883, at the age of twenty, de Coubertin went
to Rugby and to other English schools to see for himself. He described the
results in a book, `L'Education en Angleterre', which was published in
Paris in 1888. The hero of his book is Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby:
“the leader and classic model of English educators,” wrote de Coubertin,
“gave the precise formula for the role of athletics in education. The cause
was quickly won. Playing fields sprang up all over England”.
de Coubertin saw on the playing fields of Rugby and the other English schools
he visited was how “organised sport can create moral and social strength”.
Not only did games help to set the mind and body in equilibrium, it also
prevented the time being wasted in other ways. First developed by the ancient
Greeks, it was an approach to education that he felt the rest of the world had
forgotten and to whose revival he was to dedicate the rest of his life.
watched the game at Rugby school in England where it was invented, he was one
of the founders of the game in France, and set up the first French schools
championship in 1890. He refereed France's first championship final between
Racing Club and Stade Français at Bagatelle Park in Paris in 1892. In April
of that year, he was instrumental in bringing Rosslyn Park FC to Paris, to
play Stade Français.
was the first time an English Club had played in continental Europe and
aroused great interest on both sides of the Channel. When the match was
announced, some of the London newspapers expressed serious doubts as to its
advisability saying it might lead to `International Complications'! The game
was played at the grounds of the French Coursing Club Neuilly Levallois on
Easter Monday in terrible weather - rain, hail, snow, thunder and lightning -
but was very well attended, including Baron de Coubertin. Rosslyn Park beat
Stade by 3 goals and 3 tries to nil.
special commemorative sculpture, commissioned from Popineau Fils of Paris, was
presented by Lady Dufferin, wife of the British Ambassador, to Park captain E
Figgis, and now resides at Rosslyn Park. The beautiful and delicate silver
sculpture portrays a symbolic branch with laurel leaves intertwined with
English oak leaves. A medallion bears the date 18th April 1892. The
Ambassador also stood “champagne and sandwiches” to both teams - another
symbolic Anglo-French gesture.
very same year, suitably inspired, de Coubertin made the first public call to
revive the Olympic Games and the first modern Olympics were held four years
later in Athens. Can Park and Stade claim some part in inspiring the modern
matches were played in 1893, 1900 and 1912.The Stade acquaintance was renewed
in 1945, when Rosslyn Park were the first club to play in France after the end
of the Second World War, this time winning 6-3.
a modern day postscript to the story, a call from the IRB in spring 2008 led
to Rosslyn Park's U12 Mini team starring in the IRB's video for its bid to
make Rugby Sevens an Olympic Sport in 2016. Subject to ratification in
Copenhagen in October 2009, this bid has been successful and rugby will return
to the Olympics for the first time since 1924.
Park club archives and minutes
Years of Rosslyn Park' by C.C. Hoyer Millar
hundred years of Rugby Football: A history of Rosslyn Park Football Club
1879-1979' Ed. Rex Alston
selected writings of Baron Pierre de Coubertin', ed Norbert Muller, IOC